Update From Veterans Health Administration (VHA)

And a Personal Story of Getting Benefits From the VHA

VHA-logo-2

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does a fairly good job in notifying veterans of updates, changes in policy, as well sending out “Oversight Reports for Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG).” These updates relate the results of various investigations by the OIG. You can receive these updates by going here.

Sometimes the news from the VA is good and sometimes not.

A recent email communication from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) announced

the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs held a hearing on inadequate examinations for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) claims. In 2008, the VA issued a directive stating that any veteran who files a disability claim for TBI, and who hadn’t been previously diagnosed with TBI, must have the initial examination performed by either a psychiatrist, physiatrist, neurologist or neurosurgeon.

This message referred to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) report entitled VHA Directive 2013-002, DOCUMENTATION OF MEDICAL EVIDENCE FOR DISABILITY EVALUATION PURPOSES. It starts out by describing how each veteran must fill out a Disability Benefit Questionnaire (DBQ).

But things were not always this easy. Here is the story of my battle with the VA in attempting to obtain disability for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I was wounded in Vietnam when a 120 mm rocket landed 25 feet away. About twelve years after I returned home, I began to be affected by a severe startle response so I went to the VA to obtain disability.

I visited VA hospitals nearby the places I was living from 1983 to 2003: Phoenix, Ariz., San Jose, Calif., Boston, Mass., and Austin, Texas. In each case I was shuffled to either a psychiatrist or psychologist who said I did not suffer from PTSD.
After returning to Austin, I filled out an extensive form similar to the DBQ. Their diagnosis? I did not suffer from PTSD.

Finally, my primary care doctor made an appointment for me to obtain a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). I will never know for sure why, but the technician made a sudden loud noise and I started shaking. After all these years, I had medical evidence of my PTSD and my disability claim was approved.

I finally figured out what was happening: the VA was NOT widely approving PTSD claims during that timeframe!

Incidentally, the aforementioned VHA directive also said,

VHA’s goal is for Veterans to describe the disability examination process as “informative, supportive, caring, and even delightful

and they maintain they have a

“no wrong door” philosophy

Hopefully, these last two statements indicate things at the VA have changed over the last ten years. I hope so.

TBI is much more easily identified than PTSD. However, the lesson here is never give up on getting your claim(s) approved.

And if you can, find a champion to guide you through the maze of the VA. Sometimes you will be able to find one of those people right there in the VA clinic.

Chuck Yarling has had many titles in his career thus far: veteran, engineer, math teacher, consultant, technical writer, book author and publisher, and triathlete. He was a member the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Bugles Across America, which plays Taps at military funerals and special events. Spec. 5 Chuck Yarling served with the 26th Combat Engineering Battalion in Vietnam as an awards clerk. His service with the U.S. Army resulted in being awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and Army Commendation Medal. You may reach Chuck at [email protected]